Judicial Appointment Turns into Contest Between States

By Tom Bacon

The appointment of a new federal judge for the sprawling 9th Circuit Court of Appeals turned into a war between the states - Idaho and California.

John B. Owens of Los Angeles had been nominated back in the summer of last year to take a seat on the court of appeals. But when the Senate was unable to act before that session of Congress ended, the president re-nominated Owens in January this year.

Both Idaho senators, however, refused to clear Owens for a vote on the Senate floor, arguing that the long-vacant judicial seat should go to an Idahoan, not a Californian. Idaho senior Senator Mike Crapo insisted the dispute was not about Owens' qualifications as an appeal court judge. Rather, he said "I cannot support a process that leaves Idaho with only one seat on the circuit court of appeals".

The only Idahoan now on the court is Randy Smith of Pocatello, who was nominated by then-president Bush in 2007. But California Senator Dianne Feinstein scoffed at Crapo's argument. She said her state generates significantly higher caseloads than Idaho and thus deserves to fill the seat.

Additionally, she pointed out that the judicial seat has been vacant since 2004 - the longest running in the entire federal judiciary - and that it was senseless to let it remain vacant. Feinstein and the Democratic majority in the Senate shut off opposition last week, and confirmed Owens for the post on Friday.

Both Idaho Senators - Crapo andJim Risch - voted against him.
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